By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Wayne Barros, who has worked for the city of Motley for more than three decades, is retiring. The sole maintenance personnel for most of those years, Barros has decided that he would rather trap and fish than take readings from the wastewater treatment plant.
Barros first came to Motley through the Concentrated Employment Program (CEP) in 1978.
“There was high unemployment in the late 1970s. CEP offered temporary jobs at minimum wage,” said Barros. “I kept looking for another job during my eight months in Motley.”
Barros, who grew up outside of Alexandria, left Motley and went to college in Granite Falls. He left there with his boiler, air conditioning and ventilation licensure.
“I didn’t get a degree, but left college because the job as supervisor opened up in Motley in 1980,” he said. “I loved Motley when I was there. I thought Motley was a ‘cool’ city and I had a lot of fun when I was there.”
Barros said he really had not planned on returning to Motley when he went to school, but it just worked out that way.
“The job has changed a lot in 30 years,” he said. “The position wasn’t as respectable as it is now. When I was hired, it was just to keep things running. I did mostly mowing and snow plowing and kept the sewer lines clean and open. Today, licensing requirements are greater and maintenance personnel need to be more knowledgeable. It’s a more professional and technical position.”
Annually, Barros returns to school or attends seminars for continuing education to keep up with his two licenses: Class C wastewater and Class C water.
“I used to be a dog catcher in town, big time,” he said.
The testing that water goes through has changed a lot because people are more conscious of the water they drink and its quality.
“Today, we test for mercury, something we never did before,” said Barros, who said it’s a delicate operation because the mercury in one’s mouth can skew the test results.
“I wear a complete synthetic Tyvek overall,” said Barros. It’s not to protect him so much from contaminates, but to protect what he’s testing from himself.
“We also watch the wind direction because the creosote from the railroad ties may contain mercury which could alter test results,” he said.
Barros has not been with Motley consistently since 1980. In 2005, after 25 years with the city, he quit to pursue other interests.
“I moved to Aitkin and started my own mowing business, making just enough to keep me in bait,” he said.
Then the Motley position came up again in 2007.
“I returned for just the summer, just until a qualified person could be hired,” Barros said. “During the hiring process I decided to apply. I figured if I worked a few more years, my Public Employee Retirement Account (PERA) would increase substantially when I reached the Rule of 90.”
Barros remembers that when he left in 2007, and returned two years later, there were only two qualified applicants each time.
“There is a statewide shortage of qualified water and wastewater technicians out there,” he said. He said he’s heard it’s only going to get worse.
For the past six years, Bruce Brotherton, a Motley/Leader native, has been working for the city and has been hired to replace Barros. He has gone to school and received the necessary licensing for the job.
As for his future plans, Barros is looking forward to the increase in his leisure time so he can do more trapping and fishing. He also said there are several places he would love to see in the United States, so he may do some traveling.
He also loves to work on boat motors and will now have more time to do that.
“I have about 70 motors, two of which are displayed in my living room,” he said.
Barros’ hobbies embrace the outdoors, a place he would rather be than anywhere else.
The city of Motley is throwing a party for Barros, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 16, from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. All are welcome to stop by and wish Barros a happy retirement.